KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak shared the same stage as Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) president Abdul Hadi Awang at a conference on Malay Muslim unity yesterday, a week after the Premier offered an olive branch to the PAS.
They sat next to each other at the regional meeting for graduates of Egypt's Al-Azhar University - a respected centre of learning in the Muslim world - setting tongues wagging about a political rapprochement between Malaysia's two biggest Malay parties.
Datuk Seri Najib officiated the opening ceremony.
Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi was the keynote speaker at the function, which was attended by many government-appointed Islamic leaders and several PAS chiefs.
Mr Najib, 62, reeling from financial scandals that have shaken his administration, is keen to work with the opposition PAS to strengthen his hand at the next general election.
"With an open heart and free spirit, we offer the ties and bond of relationship towards the ideal in building Malaysia based on the Islamic doctrine," Mr Najib had said in his policy speech at the opening of the Umno assembly last week.
Mr Abdul Hadi, 68, led in his party's break-up with the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat in June, as he pushes to bring the Islamic criminal law called hudud to the centre of Malaysian politics.
In his speech yesterday, the PAS president said differences of political ideologies should not be a hindrance to Muslim unity.
"We want to avoid the difference of ideologies that could lead to a proxy war between Muslims," he was quoted by The Star as saying.
Both leaders have been coy about what kind of ties their two parties could form. Mr Abdul Hadi said in October that PAS will remain in the opposition ranks but is willing to work with Umno on issues concerning citizens.